Another dot in the blogosphere?

First world, HOW can?

Posted on: December 24, 2019

Our Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh described five tests that Singaporeans had to pass before we might consider labelling ourselves First World.

I outline what he suggested:

  1. We not only stop littering, we also clear any litter we see.
  2. All our public toilets are clean, including the ones are food centres.
  3. We are civic-minded and polite, e.g., making way for others, speaking in hushed tones.
  4. We are culturally literate and appreciate our heritage and history.
  5. We care for nature and the environment.

Perhaps the label of First World is a misnomer because the tests are a tall order. No amount of tuition or enrichment is going to get us there.

The underlying principles are that we do good things without being told and we do the right things without rules.

I also see the markers as standards to strive for. They do not indicate that we have arrived at any particular stage because we can always be better than we were before.

If these are the principles and standards. how might they be taught or nurtured? Schooling and regulation can only do so much, or rather, so little.

One broad approach might be to take an outsider’s perspective. Being an insider looking out build envy. But learning to be an outsider from extended or immersive stays overseas could develop such critical reflection.

Universities here also have programmes that encourage foreign students to study here. Anecdotally, I notice them clump more than they mix. So if we send our students away on exchange programmes, they should not be sent in large groups.

Our students need better preparation before they leave. Other than fact sheets and expectations, they need to be taught how to observe, communicate, and reflect.

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